November 28, 2006
OCC Reminds Consumers of Holiday Tips on Gift Cards
WASHINGTON – As the holiday shopping season gets underway, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) wants consumers to know that it is important to check carefully the terms and conditions that apply to gift cards they buy or receive.
People thinking about purchasing gift cards should consult a 2004 OCC Consumer Advisory that provides important information about such issues as fees and expiration dates, and explains how to handle complaints and lost or stolen cards.
"As we enter the holiday season, it is especially important that consumers be alert to the wide variety of terms and conditions available in the gift card market," said Comptroller John C. Dugan. "By asking a few questions based on the information provided in our Advisory, holiday shoppers will be able to select the gift card that best meets their requirements for this popular product."
Some issuers, for example, deduct a monthly fee from the gift card or apply inactivity fees if the card has not been used for some period of time. Gift card holders may not realize that the value of their cards has been reduced until they use them for a purchase.
The OCC suggests that consumers make sure they have received disclosures on some of the important terms and conditions of the gift card they purchase, including:
- The fees, if any, that apply to the gift card, including those that apply after the sale and reduce the value of the card
- The expiration date of the gift card
- The procedures to follow in the event a card is lost or stolen
- The locations at which the gift card can be used
- The procedures to follow in the event there are problems with the gift card
If these disclosures are not stated on the gift card itself, or its packaging, the OCC suggests that consumers check to see if there is a toll-free number or Web site that will provide this information.
Some gift cards are issued by banks and some are issued by nonbank companies. The OCC has been providing periodic guidance to national banks on the subject of stored-value cards, including gift cards. The most recent OCC guidance on gift cards was issued on August 14, 2006, and addressed disclosure and marketing issues associated with gift cards.